Wednesday, May 20, 2020

We Love our Lake Cottage Life

We have owned our Lake Cottage for 37 years now, and we still love it.  We opened it up yesterday, and it truly feels like coming home when we pull up to the dock.

 It is not a very fancy place. We have the only cottage located on a tiny island in a gorgeous river/ lake system that is about a 2-hour drive north of our home. It is only a short distance from the mainland shore with other cottages, but the only way to actually get to our island is by boat. We rent a dock on the mainland at a tourist campground.  We arrange to leave the boat there over the winter and in the summer we park the boat at a dock, and when we are there, we leave our car in their parking area. We own the cottage itself and pay taxes to the local municipality, but the property is technically that of the government, and we have a permanent lease with the provincial government. It is considered to be on a navigable waterway because it is an island, and that changes the status of the property so that it can not be owned outright by us.

The cottage itself is rather primitive, and it's showing it's age. We purchased it for a good price off a man who had kind of pieced it together with odds and end of reclaimed construction materials that don't really make a cohesive look to the place, but we always found it kind of fun and funky. We have a lot to do to keep up the repair but Bob, my husband, is fantastic at keeping everything going one way or another. In our first years out there, he set up a solar electrical system with a small back up generator. The stove is propane, the toilet is a composting one, and our primary source of heat in the cooler months is a fireplace. 

Going to cottage country is being discouraged by the provincial government right now because of COVID19. We were careful to follow the recommendations they made that if you did go out you needed to be prepared and minimize your contact with others and try not to utilize their local health care system. We went out there with everything we needed and did not interact with anybody. Heck, we didn't even see anyone on this long weekend Monday!

 Our immediate family, despite some ups and downs,  has done pretty well with being quarantined.

We think that this cottage where we have spent so much time over the years is so isolated that we are kind of used to keeping ourselves occupied and we can be quite self-sufficient. I also think we have learned to spread out and give each other some physical space when needed. The cottage truly is a sanctuary where you can listen to the loons and songbirds, hear waves against the rocks and learn to relax in your own thoughts.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Cheerio Squares and Saving the Bees

My daughter, Emily, has been making this delicious little treat lately. We just love her No-bake Peanut Butter Cheerio Squares! (see the recipe at the bottom of this post)

 It all started with buying a box of Honey Nut Cheerios. Frankly, the big draw was that the packaging offered a free hat or free shirt, and they are offering free wildflower seeds to help save the bees. I am not an affiliate or anything like that. I am just a bit of a sucker for giveaways.

We have received our free seeds already and are waiting for our free hat. I do want to caution that even native plants should be used appropriately in the correct habitat. A plant that does well and is a normal part of our environment here in Winnipeg could turn into an invading plant species in another location. We intend to plant our wildflower seeds in a planter or plant pot and keep them more contained in our yard and do not plan to spread them out in the wild like by our cottage by the lake.

We really do care about the pollinators of our world. Bees, butterflies and other insects are needed to keep our agriculture businesses healthy and food on the table. 

I have done a very successful Recreation Program about honey and bees for work at the nursing home, and I think it is time to do it again. Talking about bees and insects is great for discussion and reminiscence. I will have to be careful not to do any projects that actually attract any bees to our patio area and too close to our residents. Still, we certainly can learn about bees and honey and what we can do to help. During May, I am doing programming focusing on butterflies. They are also a pollinator but can't sting anyone!

According to the Honey Bee Conservancy, there are 10 things we can do to help promote healthy bees for the future.

  1. Plant a garden for bees. This doesn't mean you have to buy a lot of extra plants but rather consider purchasing plants that support bees and other pollinators. I know one secret. Those are often the most attractive and fragrant flowers, which will make your garden or window box look beautiful.
  2. Go chemical-free. Look into an organic or natural way to take care of your plants.
  3. Become a Citizen Scientist. Help collect data and information that can be shared to get a fuller picture of our world.
  4. Provide trees. They provide nectar with the flowers and habitat for them too.
  5. Provide a bee and butterfly bath. That is basically a shallow dish of water with rocks in it for the insects to have a drink.
  6. Build homes for native bees. That could be providing undisturbed spaces or little bee homes filled with small tubes to be homes for certain types of bees.
  7. Give bees homes. You can learn about having your own hive or supporting other community organizations in beekeeping or preserving natural spaces for insect life.
  8.  Inspire the next generation. We can help teach children how to be good stewards of our world in the future. 
  9. Host fundraisers to support organizations that bring awareness
  10. Support local beekeepers and organization. Try buying local honey and wax products. I love getting local honey at my favourite farmers market, and it is always a welcome gift for friends.

Here are a couple little extra resources that I intend to use at work when we make our No-bake Peanut Butter Cheerio Squares!

Want to sing a song?

The History of Cheerios

And Finally, the Recipe!

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cheerio Squares

  • 3/4 cup Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 3 cups Cheerios
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (Optional) 
  1. line an 8 x 8 baking pan with parchment and parchment paper or foil 
  2. place the peanut butter and honey in a large pot on the stove or in a larger microwave save bowl.
  3. heat while frequently stirring until they are melted and thoroughly combined 
  4. remove from heat and then stir in the cheerios and, if desired, the chocolate chips.
  5. pour into your parchment or foil-lined pan.
  6. chill in the fridge for an hour or longer 
  7. cut into squares using a sharp knife. 

If you want a different look and a chocolatey taste, an alternative is to melt the chocolate chips in the microwave and spread them on top of the chilled mixture like you would frosting. Let it set before cutting.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Mental Health Week

Ok...  right now I am asking you. 

Answer out loud.   

... How are you?

Think. What is your normal response?   Did you just say, "Fine thanks and how are you"?  I bet you expect me to say, "That's great .. I'm fine too".

The real answer might be, "I feel great because I had a wonderful day working in my garden, and I am happy to be home with my family".

The real answer might be, "I had a stressful day at work. It was exhausting, and I am afraid I might catch the virus from someone".

The real answer might be, "I am very lonesome, stuck at home with no one to talk to, and I am worried that I am not going to have a job to go back to".

Canadian Mental Health Week was from March 4 to 10. I think this year's Mental Health Week theme is incredibly relevant and valuable.  Don't just get loud, Get Honest and   #GET  REAL  

I looked at their website last week and it really hit me that I am giving exactly that kind of automated answer. I have had friends messaging me and contacting me on Facetime. They care; that's why they are calling, so why don't I tell them more about how I am doing. I am resolving to be more mindful of my answers to friends and family.

What we are doing there is giving up is a chance to really connect with someone, and share our real feelings at that moment. It is so easy to just walk past or just perhaps just be polite but listening to someone and sharing a little bit about yourself can change you and the other person's days or possibly your lives.

Lack of personal connection has long been recognized as a problem in our world, long even before we were faced with  COVID 19.  Now we are even more focused on the impact of Social Distancing and the impact it is having on our mental health and social interactions. Almost half of all Canadians are currently claiming to feel isolated and about 47 percent are feeling anxious.  Even more disturbing to me is the fact that only 9 percent are feeling happy.  
Social isolation can cause a whole raft of other physical and mental health problems. Depression, anxiety and cognitive decline (in older people) are all associated with social isolation and having fewer social ties. These mental health concerns can make us withdraw from our communities even more, reinforcing our feelings of social isolation. It has also been found that the absence of strong relationships can cause early death. One study found that being socially isolated reduces our lifespan in a way that compares to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

I really suggest that everyone check out the "Your Mental Health Section", found along the top bar of the above webpage, for several really good and timely short articles that will be applicable to people everywhere.   is the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association and the hosts of Mental Health week. is the Mental Health Resource Centre and has TONS of information and places you can find help.  is the web page for Mental Health Week.

The Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women, is a huge fundraiser supporting initiatives for women's mental health that my family supports, has been at the least postponed for this year. They are still supporting their current mental health initiatives.


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Growing a Garden with Catherine and Phil

Please welcome my friends and Guest Bloggers, Catherine and Phil. They love their little urban garden and I was so happy when they agreed to share about how they grow a Winnipeg garden.

Joyful Planting

During a pandemic, it can be scary; in order to live through these scary times, one should focus on keeping healthy and protect yourself by sanitizing and social distancing. It's not easy as I'm a frontline worker at a Personal Care Home. I have to be extra careful, but in my house, it's hard to do. We try our best to make sure everything is sanitary.

Our home consists of my husband Philippe, my fur babies, Buddy the cat and Bella, the dog and me Catherine. Phil has the green thumb of the family. Phil grew up in the country and worked on a farm as a young teenager. Myself, city girl, I have a little green thumb. I've watched my parents' garden, and they taught me how to care for plants inside and out.

 I would help put seeds in the soil, pick out the weeds, and water the garden every chance I got. However, if there was a bee or wasp around, I'd be running for my life, leaving the water hose running waiting until that bee goes away. I did enjoy watching our plants grow through the years, especially my parent's apple tree.

Phil and I planted a garden since the day we met 13 years ago and through almost ten years of marriage. Anyways, due to the crisis, the world is going through now why not take the time to plant a beautiful life in the garden, it's the best place to spend time with each other.

Phil searched on the internet and found a way to plant seeds in a Ziplock bag. All you need is a tray, spray bottle, scissors, soil, paper towel, tweezers, planting containers and planting seeds.
All you have to do is you take a paper towel that's been cut to the size of the ziplock bag, spray the paper towel lightly with water. Then fold your paper towel in half with the seeds inside and insert it into the Ziplock with delicacy. The next step is to have an area in front of your window that gets the most sunlight and leaving on a flat surface, or you can get a thick string with clothespins hanging it across your window. Let it sit there for 4 to 6 days, checking if the roots are starting to grow.

Then when you notice that the root is growing, use tweezers or your lovely fingers to lightly grab the seed with the root. With caution, plant the seed into 3/4 cup of soil in any plastic or recycle containers of your choice that have holes on the bottom. Dig a little hole in the soil to add your seed with root facing the bottom, cover lightly with soil and spray with water gently over the top. Add the seeds by separating them a couple of millimetres apart.

Then each day in the morning you should continue to spray it with water as it grows. Make sure you put your lovely creation by the window to get sunlight for your garden to grow. It has been a wonderful experience growing our lovely garden every spring.

As time passes, your plants will grow. Once the risk of frost is gone, it is time to transplant your plant into your outside garden. Take your container with your baby plant and move it to the garden.

Dig a hole approximately the same size of the containers and gently remove the plant. Insert the plant with all its wonderful roots into the new hole that you have just dug. It's ok if you take a lot of soil with you as sometimes it's gets stuck to the roots. Once inserted into the new hole in the garden, bring more soil to the new plant to make sure that it's nice and full in the hole. Add water, and enjoy watching your wonderful creation grow.

After a few weeks of watering daily, your plant will grow. With plenty of sunshine, water, love and even some great companionship, your plant will grow big and tall and eventually will create beautiful flowers.

If you are planting flowers, enjoy your beautiful creation with a wide arrangement of colours and, of course, the smell. Flowers can give out lovely aromas, and every flower has a different scent, so make sure to try many different varieties.

If you are planting fruits or vegetables, your flower after a few weeks will slowly start to create a little spot. The petals from the flower will fall, but don't be sad because that little spot that appears will continue to grow and, after some time, will grow into a fruit or vegetable. You can slowly watch all your hard work grow into some wonderful food that you can soon enjoy.

After a few weeks of watering daily, your plant will grow. With plenty of sunshine, water, love and even some great companionship, your plant will grow big and tall and eventually will create beautiful flowers.

Once the fruit or vegetables are fully grown, you can finally harvest. Remove with care and enjoy the fruit of your labour.

Sometimes your plant will die, and sometimes it won't grow, but don't be disappointed because that happens to all of us.

All plants have different aspects to them that help them grow better. We learn a little more every year on how to plant better, and with patience, love and care, we will slowly become wonderful gardeners, and that will help us go through life.

Story and Photography by
Catherine Molina-Ross and Philippe Ross

Thursday, April 30, 2020

A Song for this Last Day of April

This is the last day of a very long April following a very long hard winter.

I want to share April On the Ground with everyone. It tells us about looking forward to the new season, to being outside and no longer facing the storm. He says that it comes with newfound understanding. Hopefully, as we come to the other side of this time of isolation and fear, we too can say we have learned something about ourselves and about our world.

I really like Justin Hines and his music.
Justin Hines is an extremely gifted musician who was born with a rare genetic disorder that affects his mobility causing him to need a power wheelchair. He has now stopped performing due to continued failing health and breathing issues. Justin's songs are sensitive and often inspiring. He has done a lot around the world to fundraise for different charities and has a foundation of his own. I was lucky to see him perform in Winnipeg many years ago when he helped raise money for The Independent Living Association of Manitoba

April on the Ground  - Justin Hines

It's nice to know,
I've seen the seasons in their glory,
Each one brings a different morning,
to my door,

But still somehow,
I'm looking forward to a sunrise,
Where I don't have to face a storm,
to go outside,
Yeah that would be nice,

And here at last,
With a new found understanding,
All the baggage not with standing,
It means no more.

And all is well,
Well I'm looking into friendly eyes,
And I'll hold the hands that keep me warm,
An hang on tight, That's my plan,
Yeah that's my plan,

'Cause its a fine time for April on the ground,
I've never been one for the cold,
And I'd say good-bye to walkways lined in white and not get down,
'Cause its a fine time for April on the ground,

Miles away,
There's a man that's sad an lonely,
His favourite saying is "If Only",
While on his knees,

And he bids farewell,
To a hardened woman he created,
Its been years in the making,
'Cause she's on her way,
I think I heard them say,
Yeah I heard them say,

Its a fine time for April on the ground,
I've never been one for the cold,
And I'd say good-bye to walkways lined in white and not get down,
'Cause its a fine time for April on the ground,

Its a fine time for April on the ground,
Well I never did get use to the cold,
And I'd say good-bye to walkways lined in white and not get down,
Oh its a fine time for April on the ground,
Yeah an its a fine time for April on the ground,
Well I've never been one for the cold, Alright,
And I'd say good-bye to walkways lined in white and not get down, not get down,

'Cause its a fine time for April on the ground,
Its a fine time for April on the ground,
Its a fine time for April on the ground,

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